Tag Archives: family

Book Launch Week!

baby handsFor the past several years, I have been writing little encouragements for Christian moms, and sharing them on my personal social media. I have had some requests from my friends to put them all in one place for them to access and share.

So, in honor of World Book Day, I am releasing my brand-new book on Amazon this week! You can buy the print version for 6.99 right here:

If you prefer the ebook version, you can buy that as well. If you have Kindle Unlimited, you can read it for free! If not, you can buy the Kindle version for 0.99 this week only! Next week the price will go up a bit. This is launch week special!
You can buy the Kindle version here:

There are 31 short devotionals, each with a corresponding Bible verse to meditate on during the day. This little book is written specifically to moms with small children – in the thick of mothering. mother and baby

I know how difficult it can be to care for babies and toddlers, how never-ending it can seem! The sleepless nights, the crunchy floors, the squabbling amongst siblings. There’s never enough ‘mom’ to reach around, and by the time you get to eat your food is cold.

It’s no joke! But then, the rewards are great, too. The wet kisses, the endless supply of dandelions, the first “Mama”! The moments when they are sleeping so peacefully and you just know you have the most beautiful, precious child in the whole wide world!

I have cared for 8 babies over the years, 5 of my own and 3 foster babies. These meditations came from my own musings, as I face various battles in my mind; battles against Self and sin. I find that there is layer after layer of selfishness, laziness, and pride in my heart.

I hope you are blessed by this little work of love, and may God encourages your heart through these pages.

sunrise

My Journey of Faith, part 7.

My Journey of Faith-7We had been living in Pueblo, CO for about 8 months when we heard about a church that might be a good fit. My husband and I believe strongly that a disciple of Jesus needs to have regular fellowship with other like-minded believers. Commitment to a local church is something we take seriously.  We want to be a part of a church family – somewhere we can be accountable to other believers in a closer way than we are with random christians we meet occasionally. We don’t want to be seat-warmers, slipping in and out quietly without anyone really knowing us.

Jesus preached to multitudes; but He had the 12 that He interacted with on a deeper level, teaching, sharing food, traveling.  It seems that in following His example, one should try pretty hard to find and integrate with a local church. We need community, people to do life with, people who have the same vision and goals in their walk with God. Not perfectly alike, mind you, but similar.

Well, we hadn’t found a church fellowship that really spoke life to us in Pueblo – so we were cautiously willing to check out a church in Northern CO. This was a church that we had visited years earlier, but we didn’t know much about it. We knew a couple people there, but again – mostly strangers. So, one bright Sunday morning, I woke the kids early, and dressed them for church, and we piled in our minivan and headed north.

After not being part of a church for over a year, it was like water on dry ground to listen to that sermon! The pastor’s words poured life and truth and love. My eyes filled with tears; I can still remember that morning. We fellowshipped with the church folk afterwards, at their potluck lunch. We talked about how much we enjoyed it on our long drive back home.

We visited again soon, and after the second visit, we knew. Well, actually, after the first visit I knew that we were supposed to move there. But the second visit was a definite confirmation. But we didn’t have any extra money to take off work and drive up to look for work or housing. We weren’t sure what to do. But then one of the men from the church (he was one of the pastors) called us and told us he found Cliff a job in construction, and he found us a house! ( he’d negotiated a 6 month lease for us, if we were interested.)

Well, with that kind of support, what could we say but yes?! The pastor paid the down-payment on the house for us, and set up  the job. He also gathered church folk to be there to help us unload furniture when we moved, and brought us food. This was not a wealthy man, by the way. Just an ordinary, hard-working man with 7 kids of his own. He never said much, but his life spoke more to me than most pastors I have listened to in my life.

We moved to Weld County, CO in March, 2006. It was good to be a part of a church where the sermons gave life, the fellowship was sweet.

But we were still broke. I think Cliff made 13 or 14 dollars an hour, building houses. He is a good carpenter, but he doesn’t really enjoy it. After nearly a year on a ranch, it was even less appealing. But he didn’t complain – just worked hard for our family. I stayed home and did a little custom sewing, stretched our money as best I could. I did struggle with loneliness, because we lived 45 minutes from the church and from most of our friends. I didn’t know people very well yet, and we didn’t have a lot of extra money to spend on gas to drive around.

But, God taught me one of my most treasured lessons while we lived in that trailer-house in Weld County. A few months after we moved, I started feeling unwell. Nothing I could put my finger on,  just tired, sometimes nauseous, aches and pains. I worried and fretted about it. I knew it must be diabetes or cancer or something! I googled it, worried some more, and finally had a breakthrough:  God showed me that it was because I was lonely, discontent,  and verging on depression. Between finances, having three small children, a new church, a new community… I wasn’t handling it all very well. I was stewing and worrying and nervous, instead of trusting in God. I don’t even know when or how it dawned on me, but at some point I realized it was not a health issue at all but merely my body mirroring what was going on in my head.

I had basically made myself sick from discontent and worry. I wanted a house in the country… I didn’t want to have money troubles… I missed my sister…  I felt out-of-place at this new church… Bottom line: it was sin. It was like the parable of the Sower – some of the seed fell on good ground, but it was choked out by the cares and troubles of this world. (Matthew 13) I truly wanted to be a disciple of Jesus, but I allowed circumstances to cloud my vision, hiding the sunshine of God’s glory. When plants grow with little sun, they get sickly and weak. And so do people.Focus on Christ, and let the stuff of his world fade out a little.

I came to realize that my happiness could not depend on external circumstances, but had to come from within. I had to focus on Christ, and let the stuff of this world fade out a little. I realized that you can actually become physically ill from worry and discontent. I can’t tell you five steps to victory – it was subtle changes. It was waking up and forcing myself to get up and read the Word of God and praise Him. It was refusing to allow my thoughts to dwell on myself, but to start looking out and up. Out at others who I could bless, and up to God who was and is always worthy of praise and honor!! In a few weeks, I was happier and felt better than I ever had. I had no health problem! It felt like a miracle to me, and indeed – isn’t it always a miracle when God gets a hold of a person’s life and transforms them??!!

If you have slid off the path, fallen in a pit, or are choked up with the weeds of this old world – get up! Take courage! God is on your side! He wants you to be happy and fulfilled in Him. When your gaze is on Jesus, there is nothing in this world that can harm you or entice you. Discontent comes from taking our eyes off our precious Saviour. Start praising God. Look for ways to bless others in your life. Place every trial and problem in God’s hands. You probably can’t fix it anyways, so why hang onto it? :)

Anyways, we lived in Northern CO for nearly a year. Then one day in early January, Cliff’s boss told him that he didn’t have enough work for Cliff. He said that he would have to let Cliff go in two weeks.

Now what?!? We couldn’t afford to go very long without a job, but winter is slow in construction, and where would we find another job? The news was a bit of a shock, for sure.

To be continued…

My Journey of Faith, part 6.

My Journey of Faith-6

 

We lived in Missouri for 5 years, and had many experiences, good and bad.

  • Three children were born to us, a girl – then two boys.
  • Cliff’s dad passed away unexpectedly from a heart attack at age 45.
  • We built a small house mostly by ourselves. It was on my mother-in-law’s property.
  • Cliff started a small rock-laying business on the side.
  • Then he started a leather tack business in our living room. (still going today!)
Building our tiny house! 2005

Building our tiny house! 2005

It was during this time that I grew a lot in the areas of patience, self-control, and unselfishness. Not that I am perfect by any means, (!!!) but the day-to-day responsibilities of being a mother and a wife taught me a lot.

Making ends meet when we lived on $400-500 per week, struggling to pay dental bills and vehicle breakdowns and appliance failures. Thanks to my naturally thrifty nature, and my mother’s example, I often made 20.00 last for a weeks worth of groceries for the two of us. The babies were always breastfed and the toddlers – well, you know how little they eat! :)

Our little family back in 2005.

Our little family back in 2005.

We ate a lot of beans and potatoes, and Cliff shot a deer or two every fall. Often neighbors would give us extra deer they’d shot. One fall we bought a pig and butchered it. That was a huge treat! I cured the bacon myself, to save on butcher house costs. It was great! The Lord blessed us tremendously during that time. I found a man who had lots of grapevines he didn’t use, so my friend and I would go pick bushels of grapes and can the juice. I bought ‘seconds’ of apples and peaches and canned them. I had a generous neighbor who gave me her extra green beans to can, and corn to freeze.

My sister and her husband; Marcel.

My sister and her husband; Marcel.

One year we went on a vacation to Idaho to visit my sister and her family on a ranch. When we got back, my garden was destroyed by the neighbor’s goat herd! I felt pretty defeated, but we made out ok. It was a lot of work gone, though!

I gave birth to several of our children at home, and midwives are not covered by insurance, even if we would’ve had it. (we didn’t) We paid for years for our babies. ($4,000 was a common rate) With one of our sons, we were blessed to be able to trade work towards the cost of the delivery. Cliff worked on their house in the evenings, in trade. (The midwife was a friend, so we were very thankful.)

I say all this – not for pity – but to share the goodness of God who never leaves us, and always provides for us! Always!! Along with learning to be a mother, I was learning to trust God. It was hard, financially. We were always tight. But I grew up like that, so it wasn’t new to me. In fact, I didn’t know any other way to live.

Such a good daddy!

Such a good daddy!

It was difficult having 3 babies so close together, too. Each time, I got pregnant when my baby was 11 months old. So the three of them were all 21 months apart. At one point I had a 3 year old, a 1 year old,  and a newborn! I get quite sick when I am pregnant, so there were many days where I would lie on the couch, nauseated, while my toddler(s) got into mischief. I had two babies in diapers, twice.
As a kid, I had always been my dad’s right-hand-man, so to speak, and never did get along very well in the house. So the transition to a full-time homemaker was a learning curve. The constant stream of dirty dishes, the constant exhaustion from being pregnant and having toddlers, the ever-needy children, the endless laundry and cooking that needed doing… it all wore on me.

My first two babies.

My first two babies.

Cliff and Andy.

Cliff and Andy.

I loved being a mother, but I had to learn to pull on my big girl boots and just do it. My mother was very practical, and she raised us to have emotional control – which I am ever so thankful for! I knew the only thing to do was get up and do what needed doing.
I can tell you; you don’t need afternoon wine, or chocolate, or me-time, or girls’ nights or anything else our self-inclined society tells you. You need a reverent fear of God and His Word. You need to take control of your thoughts and put to death your selfish desires, and do what needs doing. “I die daily,” the Scripture says. (1 Cor 15)
Death isn’t fun! Death isn’t easy! Death is hard and painful. But the result is sweet acceptance and submission to God’s will. In my case; the raising and nurturing of a family. I’m not saying there is anything wrong with me-time and chocolate. Those things have their (limited) place. But please don’t turn to things to replace what God wants to do in you. He will mature you and grow you in ways you never knew possible, if you are willing to be purified. Seek God, above all! Read His word daily. Die to Self, live for Jesus. God is able to give you ALL you need, I can assure you.

When our 3rd baby was very young, our church went through an upheaval. Due to uncontrollable (by us) circumstances, we were left without a church. It was the first time I felt a bit lost and betrayed. We wanted to serve God, and know Him. Why would He jerk out the church from under us? Why would He leave us hanging, so to speak? I was confused. I wanted to move to Pennsylvania to a church where some of our friends were. I didn’t want to look for another church! I sure didn’t want to sit alone. But sit alone we did – for a while.

Then one day, Cliff was talking to his cowboy friend (my sister’s husband) on the phone. When he hung up, he asked me: “How would you like to move to Colorado and work for Marcel on his cattle operation?”

Of course I wanted to! They talked some more, and I wasn’t sure if it would work out. Maybe August, they said?
It was July, and I had the prettiest garden ever. The tomatoes were just starting to ripen when we got a call. Marcel (my bro-in-law) was taking a trip and needed someone to watch the cattle while they were gone. Could we come out in a week?

Cow country.

Cow country.

Well of course we could! We packed up our belongings and stuffed them into the front of the horsetrailer. We packed the truckbed and minivan full, too. There was just enough room for three carseats. We loaded our horse into the back end of the 4-horse trailer, and headed out one evening. Like any parent of small children – we knew if we travelled at night, they would sleep a good portion of the trip. Since we had a 5 month old baby, we knew it would be best if he was sleeping a lot of the way, since we both had to drive.

I drove the minivan and he drove the truck & trailer. We drove all night, stopping once for a short nap-break for me. I was so tired. I fought sleep so bad! When the sun rose, we were in CO and the scenery had changed. So that was better. I stayed awake pretty good for the rest of the trip. We pulled in to my sister’s place before noon, and I was sleep-drunk. But the babies were awake and hyper by then, so I sat in the cool grass and watched them play. The dry desert air of Pueblo was invigorating!

We lived in Pueblo for 9 months. Cliff rode and did care on yearlings with his brother-in-law. I thoroughly enjoyed living close to my sister, for the first time since I’d been married. We did everything together! We went shopping, canned peaches, did laundry, even went on a double date once, when our men found a sitter for our assorted toddlers!  😀 It was a special time in our lives. I had missed my family, and this living-a-mile-apart was so special.

Cowboys roping and doctoring a yearling.

Cowboys roping and doctoring a yearling.

Round-pen work.

Round-pen work.

It wasn’t easy… as inexperienced ranch hands, and working for a small outfit, we didn’t earn much at all. (1,200/month, plus free housing) The cost of living was higher in CO than it had been in MO. Gas had skyrocketed to over four dollars a gallon, and we were still driving junky vehicles that broke down a lot. Those nine months were the toughest, financially, that we have experienced, to date. I won’t bore you with all the details, but suffice it to say that it was hard. But you know what? God is a good Father. Often, just when money was due, we somehow got the money. We were given food and hand-me-downs, and we never went hungry. Again, I learned that God always provides, that He will always take care of you.

Horsey rides are the best! (Jenni)

Horsey rides are the best! (Jenni)

Your faith can grow in these situations, more than when you are ‘sitting pretty’. But let it be known that being poor is NOT romantic! I have had several people in my life, different times and places, ask me “how it feels?” And, that they think it would be kind of sweet and fun to be poor… “Just working hard together!” “Growing in faith!”

Huh.

Please don’t tell me that lack of money is somehow desirable. All that tells me is you’ve never tried to decide whether to pay your electric bill or buy food. You’ve never gone 6 months with the same razor because you couldn’t afford a new one. That you’ve never looked in your purse and scraped together enough coins to buy a jug of milk. There is nothing – let me repeat – NOTHING romantic about being poor. If you think there is, you probably haven’t been poor enough! 😉 It is definitely a faith-builder, but I would never ask for poverty.

Cowboys

Now I want you to know – we enjoyed life! We weren’t trudging along, depressed and worried constantly. We had our worries and troubles, almost daily, but we were living and working on a ranch, and that was our dream! We worked and played and went to church on Sunday. We didn’t eat out, go to movies, or heat all our bedrooms, but we lived just fine.

Country roads...

Country roads…

Speaking of church… at this time, we were attending my sister’s church most of the time. Not because we were particularly drawn to it, but because it was convenient. We visited several other churches in the area, but nothing really caught our attention. We didn’t know what God had for us.

We prayed about it, and sometimes I felt discouraged, because it seemed like we wouldn’t ever find a church that was right for us. We wanted something with life and vision. We didn’t just want to go to church on Sunday – we wanted to be part of a church family, one that wanted to follow Christ passionately! We kept looking.

My Journey of Faith, part 5.

my-journey-of-faith-5In the year 2001, I became a mother.

It was around 4 pm when our sweet daughter entered the world with that special newborn cry. I, who had never been too baby-crazy, looked down at her scrunched-up face and fell in love – as all mothers do! I was pretty sure I could feel my heart swelling with love, and the enormity of my emotion was overwhelming.

We took her back to my in-law’s house, and surrounded by family, we discovered the joys of night-wakings and first smiles. We were living in one bedroom, and my husband worked with his father during this time. My mother-in-law and the teen daughters operated a small bakery/sandwich shop, and I stayed home with my baby. fall centerpiece with candle

It was during this time that we started going to the same small church that my in-laws attended. It was a 2 hour drive one way to church. Not because there weren’t churches closer; this was the Bible Belt, after all. But this small country church had something the others didn’t: it had life. We drove to church every Sunday morning and home every Sunday afternoon. Thankfully, the folks at church were extremely hospitable, and we rarely left without a dinner (lunch) invitation. And usually a supper invite as well. Or more often, the dinner would stretch out to afternoon popcorn and games, then on into supper.

This church was pastored by a man whose teaching I hadn’t heard before. He preached often about the power of the Holy Spirit. Not about jumping and screaming and being slain in the spirit. But the power of the Holy Spirit… the power in a Christian’s life to overcome sin. I hung on every word. I hadn’t heard such life-changing stuff since Youth Bible school!

Some of the biggest lessons I learned there were:
Temptation is not the same as sin. Satan puts thoughts in your head, and that is not sin. But if you yield to those thoughts, that is sin. Wow! That was life-changing for me! It took away all guilt I had for not being able to stop thoughts from popping in my head.
To have power in your life, you must be filled with the Holy Spirit. Acts 1:8  I prayed specifically to be filled with the Holy Spirit every day, and I learned to ask for His help in each moment of temptation. I fell a lot in the beginning. But over time, as I followed the Bible’s teaching and grew in understanding, my ‘new man’ grew stronger and the ‘old man’ became weaker. Romans 6:6Eph. 4:22-24
Two rules I learned that helped me overcome sin; 1. sincerely repenting each time, and 2. asking forgiveness each time the sin involved another person. My biggest problem is sinning with my tongue, so I had a lot of uncomfortable conversations with people! But when you go to the person and ask forgiveness, the very awkwardness of it will help you ‘think before you speak’ in the future.
Who is the Holy Spirit? He is simply the third Person of the Trinity: the Spirit of Christ. Romans 8:9

smell the flowersWe moved to the community where this church was located, several months after our daughter was born, and we lived there 4 years. During that time, the pastor became a true spiritual father to us. He taught us many truths from God’s Word. He shepherded us as a young married couple, being an example with his life. His wife is a godly woman who taught me many things about living in a Christlike manner. I watched her ways, her speech, and her example. To this day, I text or call her when I am feeling overwhelmed! What a need there is for godly women to teach and mentor the younger women!

There were several very Godly women in that church who took me under their wing, and taught me how to mother, how to be a wife, how to cook and clean and be a better sister in the church. Sometimes I look back on those years and wince, as I remember all the dumb things I did and said as a young wife and mom in her early 20’s. Oh, goodness. So much immaturity! But no one chided me; they simply loved me and cared for me and gently taught me. My mother-in-law was one of the most important. I am so blessed with the mother I found in her! She was there when my own mother was far away, and I learned so much from her.

sunsetThanks for sticking with me on this journey of faith. It has been good for me to go back and remember all the goodness of the Lord; all the mighty things He has done for me! There is nothing good in me – ONLY in Him!!

To be continued…

January Ramblings – and a story about a cow.

snow drift by barn

The deer that live in town!

The deer that live in town!

January is nearly over – can you believe it?

I can. And I’ll tell you why: we haven’t seen the ground by our house since November! 😀 We live in a place that takes winter very seriously. We have drifts upon drifts, and if the temperature reaches 25* it is a warm day! horses in snow

My view on my way to workout!

My view on my way to workout!

I got stuck twice, so far – in ONE DAY! Yuck. I hate getting stuck, but even more so when someone other than my husband has to pull me out. (both times!) But there is no way you are digging out in these rock hard drifts. When you get stuck, you get stuck!dodge stuck in snow

The view from my kitchen window!

The view from my kitchen window!

I have been driving the 4 miles to my neighbor’s place to exercise each day. Well, Monday – Saturday as long as I am at home and the roads are 4WD-passable! I have missed some days in January. My oldest daughter started going with me, so that is nice.

 

...when you walk 'down' to the porch that is 3 steps off the ground!

…when you walk ‘down’ to the porch that is 3 steps off the ground!

We are blessed to have a small woodstove in our living room. I try to keep it blazing at all times. But in the afternoon, I go in my bedroom to write and forget all about the fire. Somehow the kids don’t think of putting wood on, either! Sometimes I sit right beside the stove to write, because it is so toasty and warm, and I still let it go out! This is what happens when I write. :)

woodstove

Last week my husband went to Billings, Montana. He was attending the Ranching For Profit school. It is a full week, and covers topics such as grazing techniques, employee relationships, profit margins, etc. This outfit we’re on sent him there, as they do for all new hires. People who implement those principles seem to really like the results.
While he was gone, I took the kids and drove to Colorado to visit some friends. I visited my Romanian friend, and she served me some of her homemade tomato preserves. I think she said  it has tomatoes, peppers, and… squash? I forget the third ingredient. Anyways. It is not sweet, just a mild-flavored vegetable spread. She served it on toast. She also served a sweet homemade bread that was yummy. The swirl was ground up walnuts, cardamom, and rum. I asked her 3 times what it was called, but I already forget. (I’m so bad at forgetting foreign words!) romanian vegetable spreadRomanian sweet bread

I have been buzzing my son’s hair since he was 2 years old. But recently he asked me to cut it more… well, stylish. And I tried. But it was sad. And I appreciate a good haircut, so I started taking him to the hair salon. They call it a ‘gentleman’s cut’, and it looks amazing. Totally worth the money!

I could be prejudiced, won't deny that.

I could be prejudiced, won’t deny that.

Meanwhile, my baby is growing up (insists she’ll be 35 soon, “just like you, mom!”) 😀 but she still loves cuddles and hugs.my baby girl

 

I went to a friend’s store while I was in CO, and loaded up on fruits & veggies. I LOVE veggies! stirfry and avocadofruit

Then i undo the good of the veggies with my mug cakes! They flopped.

Then I undo the good of the veggies with my mug cakes! They flopped, by the way. But I plopped some cool whip on top and hey! still yummy!

So let me tell you a story about living on a ranch…
Our lane is pretty narrow, and the cows like to stand on it, for some unfathomable reason. Well, one night I was driving home from town, and it was dark. I honked the horn at the cows, and drove slowly through them. Some went off the lane into the field. But there is a ditch between lane & field, and they do not like to cross it. Understandably, because hey – I wouldn’t enjoy wallowing in snow up to my belly either! But still. Get off the road you crazy cows! Anyways, so they all moved to the side of the lane, and I drove slowly past. As I passed the last cow, she decided too late to switch directions. She swung her hindquarters around and her hip bone caught the back corner of my Suburban and left a big ole dent! I looked in the rearview, and she went scampering off, the bugger.  I mean, it’s not like my rig is that precious; it has major hail damage, 230,000 miles, and the 4WD no longer works. But still. Get off the road, you ornery cow!

Hard to get a pic with a cell phone after dark.

Hard to get a pic with a cell phone after dark.

A new thing I am doing this month, is starting a 31 business! I heard lots about them, but never was interested. I went to a party to help out a friend, and fell in love with the products! I am hosting a launch party for the next 4 days, so go over and check it out! Every one who orders will be entered in a drawing for a prize! My Thirty-One Party

jan-customer-special-social-graphic

Well, that’s about it for my January ramblings. Hope you’re staying warm and cozy! :)

 

My Journey of Faith, part 2.

my-journey-of-faith-2

My family moved a lot. In the years when I was 11-14, we lived in 3 different states for seasonal work, and 3-4 additional states for various other church or work-related reasons. So we weren’t in a ‘settled’ church. Mom asked me if I understood baptism, and she gave me a couple verses to look up in my Bible. I did look them up, and got excited about it. But there was still that issue of a church…

In the Mennonite church that we were part of, a person who got saved was expected to go through 6 months of ‘instruction class’ (where you were taught all the Mennonite doctines and church rules), then be baptized, and be taken into the church as a member. This structure was quite rigid; you couldn’t just be baptized without the 6 months instruction, and yet as a Mennonite, you wouldn’t be welcome if you went to a different church to be baptized. So I waited.

When I was 14, we were attending a small church in Oklahoma. It was made up of several families who had broke away from the Mennonites, and a few other christian families needing fellowship. We attended that church for about 6 -8 months, I guess. The first few weeks we lived in our fifth-wheel camper while we fixed up a dilapidated old house.

Dad had stripped the carpet and couch out of the back of the camper, and put a small woodstove in the middle. The floor was unfinished wood, and the six of us sat scrunched around that stove during the cold winter weather, pulling our folding chairs as close as we could without burning our shoes. I don’t remember where the chimney went… I guess Dad must’ve cut a hole in the roof to stick it out.

Anyways.

I remember Dad trying his best to get us kids to join in on family worship. He would read a passage of Scripture, and expound on it awhile, then ask us our thoughts. There were four of us girls at home at this time. All four of our brothers were out and about on their own. And us girls were used to our brothers and Dad loudly discussing ideas and thoughts. We scarcely knew how  to discuss Scripture, and we weren’t interested in discussing it with Dad and Mom. We just wanted to get family worship over with! So Dad got discouraged and finally stopped trying. (Shame on us kids!)

But the thing about this church was; they all seemed excited about God. I could see why Dad was drawn to them. It was a very young church, maybe 1 year old? And everyone was on fire for God. They were trying out new ideas and sharing God’s love and God’s dealings in their lives. They genuinely loved the Lord! We were only there several weeks when two of the young men were baptized. I stood on the riverbank and sang joyously with this new group of believers, resolving to be the next one in the river.

I told my parents that I wished to be baptized. Dad was happy. Mom was hesitant, but she also agreed. We talked to the preacher. He asked me and my parents to come over one evening to discuss it. He read some verses, and asked me to read some verses. While reading my verse, I mispronounced the word: vehemently. He gently corrected me, but I was mortified! I have never appreciated ‘grammar nazi’s’ since. 😀 We discussed my salvation, and I was nervous because I didn’t have a ‘grand’ salvation story, nothing real dramatic, and I stammered around, unsure how to say what I meant. But he was kind, and didn’t mind that I was nervous to the point of being unable to speak.

The next Sunday after service, the whole church drove down to the river again. Dressed in white, but wearing my secondhand rose-colored coat, I walked out into that muddy Cimarron river. It was cold enough to take your breath away, but I didn’t care! My teeth chattered as I answered his questions, but  I couldn’t stop smiling! As I came out of the water, the church family standing on the river bank broke into song: “Oh happy day, that fixed my choice! On thee, my Saviour, and my God!”

Image courtesy of Britannica

Cimarron River, Image courtesy of Britannica

Being baptized was a special experience for me. It was a public way to show my sincere love and commitment to Jesus Christ. I was taking my stand with Him, and telling the whole world that I was a child of God.

“Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life.” Romans 6:4

But I still did not understand how to gain victory over sin. My life was beset with lying, despair, temper fits, and unkindness. I had a sharp tongue and was not slow to use it. I tried – oh I tried! I hated myself. I felt so guilty for being such a mean person. But I was powerless. I listened in church, and yet never heard the answer I needed.

We soon moved on from that church, back to a Mennonite church in Illinois.
See, when I was six years old, we moved to this small country church in Illinois. We had moved away and then back to it many times. We lived in 7  different houses in that community, and one of the houses we moved in and out of, several times! My dad saw inconsistencies in the Mennonite church, but Mom grew up Amish, so Mennonites – to her – seemed like a good place to be. The inconsistencies that Dad noticed, she was ok with, since to her – it was just a chosen lifestyle.

Well, this church was one of the most caring churches that I have been to. They loved my dad and our whole family. And even though they would’ve loved for us to all be members and stay there, they didn’t pressure us, and always welcomed us back with open arms. Even after I was baptized in a non-Mennonite church, they welcomed me into the church later that year.

So when my friends were baptized and taken into the church, I sat beside them and was given the ‘right hand of the fellowship’ into the Mennonite church as a member. I thought that since I was baptized, and a church member, I would surely become more holy.

But it didn’t work that way. I still could not gain victory over my sins. I fell daily into anger, jealousy, unkindness, lying. I contemplated giving up. As our home and family situation deteriorated, I seriously considered running away. I thought about leaving the church behind and just living how I wanted! But two things held me back:

1 My mother had instilled a proper fear of God in me, from a child on her knee. I knew that I could run but I couldn’t hide from Almighty God.

2 My brothers loved me, and I couldn’t run away from home and ever be able to face them again. I just couldn’t. So I stayed home. I would rather be miserable than to disappoint them. They were my heroes.

So there I was. Stuck in the same frustrating circle of sins. I just wanted to know how to get out!

...Stay tuned for next week! Victory is coming! :)

Ohiopyle falls

O happy day that fixed my choice
On Thee, my Savior and my God!
Well may this glowing heart rejoice,
And tell its raptures all abroad.

Happy day, happy day,
When Jesus washed my sins away!
He taught me how to watch and pray,
And live rejoicing every day;
Happy day, happy day,
When Jesus washed my sins away!

’Tis done—the great transaction’s done;
I am my Lord’s, and He is mine;
He drew me and I followed on,
Rejoiced to own the call divine.

Now rest, my long-divided heart,
Fixed on this blissful center, rest;
Here have I found a nobler part,
Here heav’nly pleasures fill my breast.

High heav’n that hears the solemn vow,
That vow renewed shall daily hear!
Till in life’s latest hour I bow,
And bless, in death, a bond so dear.

Philip Doddridge, 1700’s

January Snowstorm

snow covered log barn

“A snowflake is one of God’s most fragile creations,

but look what they can do when they stick together!”

The snow started last night and kept right on falling all through today. It is still snowing, even though night has fallen and all the children are tucked in bed. I think we have over a foot of snow, not counting the drifts. Of course, there were drifts and several inches already here – but now the lowest spots are still over a foot deep! drifted snow

Today I spent 6 hours decluttering, sorting, and organizing my house. When I was finished, I bundled up and went outside with my camera. It was my reward for a hard job well-done. I walked down past the barns and corrals, down to the horse pasture. I walked through the ditch, and the snow was up to my waist! I snapped some photos of the horses for my online gallery. It was fun to get some fresh air and some good pictures. I really enjoy  taking time to indulge my creative side! :) paint horse in snow

horse muzzle

I opened my online gallery this week, and to celebrate, I am offering 15% off when you use the code WELCOME. The sale only goes till January 7, though, so hurry over and check it out!

You can buy prints or ready-to-hang wall art, like canvases. Or you can buy digital downloads that you may print yourself.
Check it out here—>  ~Kay Schrock Photography~

red barn door in snow

While these storms rage – for there have been several – my husband feeds the cows and works in the shop. But me and the children, we stay warm and cozy beside the fire inside our little house. When the children are finished with their schoolwork, they get out books to read and games to play. Sometimes they play Chess or Candyland. Sometimes they draw pictures or write stories. Sometimes they watch Netflix shows like “CHOPPED” or “Dick Van Dyke”. We drink hot tea and eat thick slices of homemade bread, slathered in butter and crabapple jelly. It is all quite cozy and satisfactory.

Hot coals in a wood stove

A good bed of coals in our stove.

Horse herd in snow

I hope wherever you live, wherever you call home, is as cozy and sweet as it can be. May your winter be warmer than ours, but if not, may your stove be warm and your hearts full of love.

horses in snow

“So all night long the storm roared on:
The morning broke without a sun;
In tiny spherule traced with lines
Of Nature’s geometric signs,
In starry flake, and pellicle,
All day the hoary meteor fell;
And, when the second morning shone,
We looked upon a world unknown,
On nothing we could call our own.
Around the glistening wonder bent
The blue walls of the firmament,
No cloud above, no earth below,—
A universe of sky and snow!”
― John Greenleaf Whittier

Fall Works and Fellowship.

fall-worksThe past few weeks have been busy with shipping calves and preg-testing the cows. We were blessed with warm, lovely weather. November is not normally this beautiful in Wyoming, so we are thankful for every sunny, warm day!

I cooked for the crew when they were working here, then went over to the boss’ place and helped with lunch when the crew was over there. Well, the boss’ wife did most of the cooking – I mostly just talked. 😀 It’s good to get together with other ranch wives, though.

shipping

shipping

shipping

This week we drove to our neighbors’ Bible study on Wednesday evening. Everyone brought a pot of soup or a salad, and we shared God’s Word over home-cooked food.

There is something special about fellowshipping over food. Sharing stories and doing life together. Laughing and eating and praying together. We read of Jesus often sharing stories and teaching around meals. He knew that eating together is a great way to be informal and relaxed.

We don’t sit down to eat with our enemies. We eat with our friends. We relax and start to open up to each other when we are seated around a table. We love Thanksgiving and Easter and Christmas in part because of the warm friendship and family times we have around good food.

shipping

shippingshipping

We drove over to our friends’ house and brought food, but they had to be willing to open their home, so we could all join in. Someone had to send that invite, make the calls, prepare food, sweep the floor, tidy the bathroom, you know — get ready for guests. No, it wasn’t fancy, (thank goodness!) it was a homey and inviting place, there was a stack of paper plates and a table loaded with help-yourself food, but the fellowship was heart-warmng. There was no stiffness or awkwardness, just simple food and warm smiles and genuine hospitality.

shipping

But someone had to open their home. We wait and wait for someone else to invite us, to organize something, to fill that need in our lives. We need to open our homes. To stop waiting for someone else to initiate and just be a friend. Invite someone over for lunch. Don’t worry if you aren’t a ‘hostess type’. Just do it. Everyone needs friends and fellowship, someone to do life with. Someone to listen and understand and say: “me too”.  Just text a few friends and say “hey, want to come over tomorrow night for tacos?” Don’t stress over ‘hostessing’, just invite friends into  your life. Open up your heart and your home, and be real.

What would happen if we all started reaching out on a regular basis? It doesn’t have to be a bible study – it can be supper. Or lunch. Or tea. Whatever you do – do that. Stop waiting on the others, and start being a blessing to those in your area.

shipping

That terrible parent was me.

sad mama

I can’t even read them. Those harsh, accusatory, squinty-eyed comments that people left everywhere when a baby boy was drug away and killed before his daddy’s eyes. When a little boy fell into a cage with a dangerous beast, or even when a boy accientally knocked over a Lego sculpture. (That last one is so pathetic, it’s not worth talking about.)

They say the parents weren’t watching, weren’t being responsible, hadn’t taught their kids a thing about obedience, not touching, not reading signs, and on and on. Seriously??

You know what? I was that terrible parent.
That was me.
I had a baby boy who drowned.
He was 2 years old.
I wasn’t watching him 100% of the time, and there you go – 5 minutes later he was being swept downstream in a current so strong an adult could barely stand up. I know because it was only the adrenalin  coursing through my body that gave me the strength to stand up, hanging onto a tree branch for support, feeling around the creek-bottom with my stocking feet, screaming and crying into the wind.

A huge burden of guilt came crashing down on my back the minute I realized it wasn’t going to end well. I couldn’t look my husband in the eyes for hours. I didn’t blame the Deputy who was over-zealous in examining me and my parenting. I heard the cold accusations through his standard questions: “Didn’t you know that creek was dangerous? Do you normally allow your kids to play outside unsupervised?”

I wearily answered him, just wanting him to leave so I could flop onto my bed and cry my heart out. (He later was reprimanded by his superiors for his uncaring method of questioning.) I didn’t care. I knew he was right; I had let my baby play outside alone. For 5 minutes while I started lunch. His lunch – hotdogs. There is something exquisitely painful about putting hotdogs into a pan to heat, and an hour later serving them to 2 children instead of 3.

Do you know what it feels like to be having a wonderful, happy day, then to be plunged into the worst living nightmare? And to know it is your fault? You can’t blame anyone else. And you feel like everyone is blaming you, even when they don’t say it?

I am so thankful I have loving, caring friends and family who never blamed or shamed me. They encouraged, prayed, cried, and hugged. But they never said the obvious: “Why DID you let him play outside when you knew that canal was a mere 100 feet from your door?”
My husband could’ve allowed it to make him bitter at me, but he didn’t. He worked through his own struggles without blaming me.

Jesus has healed me from the pain, set me free from the guilt, and is teaching me to shut my ears to the Devil’s accusations. He can heal you too, if you are struggling with something similar. Jesus is the Great Healer!

I wonder how many of the name-callers on social media these days have ever been responsible for a small child 24/7? Do they know how fast a toddler can scale a fence or run toward a croc-infested lake? Have they ever searched for a missing child with their heart in their throat, screaming wild-eyed, and cold with adrenaline?

If they have, how could they possibly be so cruel? As soon as I heard of the croc story, my heart went to those parents, especially the mother. She is the one who will live with the guilt long after the world has forgotten about them. She will go to bed with red eyes for weeks. She will find a random missed sock in the laundry and break down all over again. And the father… he will question every move and replay that scene over and over. He will wonder why he wasn’t just a bit faster, a bit stronger. He will cry in the shower and when he is driving alone to work.sad mama

I don’t know the details of the story. No one does, really, except the ones on the scene. I know that more signs or a gator round-up isn’t the answer. That may prevent some tragedies and that’s great. But the thing is; hard, painful, searing things happen. And when they do, we need to rally around each other with love and prayer and hugs and tears. We can grow that way. This condemning and criticizing is killing our souls and our country.

I have no words of judgment. How can I?

That terrible parent was me, once.

Can we learn, somehow, to love and support each other even when they make mistakes or – gasp – have an accident? We all, ALL do stupid things. Some of us get away with it and no one knows. Some of us pay dearly for our mistakes.

Walk a mile in their moccasins. Love like Jesus. Practice the Golden Rule: treat others the way you would like to be treated. And if that’s too hard to do, at least take your mother’s advice and ‘be quiet if you don’t have anything good to say’.

Read my story here: Andy

Summer is here and what I’ve been doing.

Flying a kite

It’s been a bit crazy around here the past few months.
That’s actually an understatement.
It’s been really, really hectic. Like; two brandings in one day and then a wedding to photograph and a church conference and 3 Dr. visits all in 10 days, kind of hectic. Whew. Which leaves home as more of a refueling station, and we pass like ships in the night, between running to events and tossing a load of laundry in the washer.

I dislike that kind of life. Now, I can do it ok, I know how, but I really prefer a quieter schedule. Puttering in my house and lighting a candle at mealtimes, and reading a book with my littles, or playing in the sandbox with them… that’s more my style! :) Ok, so that’s not completely realistic, either, but at least have some days at home, ya know?

home on the ranch

12 days ago I drove to town and handed ‘my’ baby over to his father. I handed over all the boxes of things we’d collected for him in his 6 months with us, then I got in my suburban and drove away. foster care goodbye
“I could never do that!”
I hear you. I do. I used to say that too.
I still don’t enjoy doing it. But if God calls you to step up, He will also lavish His grace and strength upon you. He will equip you for every job He has for you. This is why we need to be so very careful to stay in His will for our lives.
We had this last placement (foster child) for 6 months. He was like my own. The kids bonded so well. We are still adjusting to life without our baby, but we are also happy that he is with his biological family. He seems to be adjusting well. As well as can be imagined, considering everything.

Obviously, it’s frustrating to not be able to share more details, but for his safety and our legal obligations, we are not allowed to share much. Suffice it to ay that he is in a good place, and we are happy for him. In this case, foster care has worked exactly as it was designed to. And for that I am grateful!

Meanwhile, we are taking a break from fostering. I’m not sure how long. I’m not sure if we will ever open our home again, or if we are done. But we are taking it slowly and deciding things one case at a time. I did agree to do respite for 4 kiddos next week. Yikes! 😉

Oh, my heart will always, always be with the foster care system. So many kiddos sitting in social workers’ offices, so many crying babies who need a nurturing mama, so many hopeless teens whom no one wants. I pray God will call many people to this ministry, to care for ‘the least of these.’
foster care goodbye

Fix your eyes on Jesus today!